Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Uncle Jess

McCormick Theological Seminary: 1951-1954
by the Reverend Orville E. Lanham, Ph.D.
(M.Div., Class of 1954)
I think the most outstanding faculty member during my junior year was Dr. Jesse Halsey. "Uncle Jess," as he was so fondly called, had been pastor of the 7th Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati before being called to the Seminary. During World War I he was an American naval chaplain on a British destroyer on the London-Murmansk run. He knew about subzero-degree weather, ice and snow. During the early years of World War II he toured the United States recruiting pastors as chaplains for the 13 million men and women who would be serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. He was small of stature, and seemed very frail. Some said his travels recruiting chaplains had caused a deterioration in his physical health. But he had a great energy. We really looked forward to his classes. He taught us the importance of worship, and the elements of worship. ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. He authored many types of books to help in planning funerals and other services.

Dr. Halsey was the only faculty member that any student felt comfortable calling on after 8 o'clock in the evening. Two students had been assigned as their field work to one of the neighborhood houses operated by the Presbytery of Chicago. They were working with the young people at the house. Two of the young men had been going down an alley when they found a shotgun. They later found the shotgun had been used in the murder of a congressman. They were afraid to turn it in to the police for fear of police brutality and arrest, as they were innocent of the crime. So, they talked with the two students back to the Seminary. The students thought that Uncle Jess would know what to do. So, about midnight (or some late hour) they rang Uncle Jess's doorbell. He came downstairs (for he lived in the upper apartment). He was in his bathrobe and slippers, and immediately said, "What's happening boys? Can I help? Come in, I will get the coffee going."

So after hearing the story, Uncle Jess called a federal judge and a prominent Chicago attorney and told them the story. They came to the campus, talked with the boys, and said, "Don't worry."

Our class was the last to sit under Uncle Jess's mantle. He retired at the end of the 1951-52 year. He died two years later.

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